How do you get a high score on Step 1? What are the top resources for Step 1 anyways?

This has been a post that has taken me some time to write. Mainly because I’ve used so many Step 1 resources.

Luckily that means I can evaluate each of them one by one.  Also, similar to my pediatrics resource post, I’ll give a grade to each resource I review along with a link to each. I also discuss how my score improved using each resource.

UWORLD for Step 1: A+

Questions are key to excel on Step.

You can read First Aid as many times as you want but the exam tests your ability to combine clues to answer a question.

UWORLD is the resource among Step 1 resources that all medical students swear by. 

2400+ questions are available for you during your dedicated period.

The questions cover both high-yield info as well as lower yield items which can make the difference between a 230 and a 250+ score.

To avoid some of the stresses I encountered, don’t pay too much attention to your percent correct.

Many students will try to correlate their percent correct on UWORLD with their actual score.

While scoring in the 80-90% on random questions will lead to a good score, getting 60-80% correct is where the typical student will be at.

Use UWORLD as a learning resource, not as a testing source for Step 1.

Learn the explanations well and review the ones you get wrong.

Many students make a word doc, Powerpoint, or a spreadsheet of missed questions with a brief explanation.

The two provided practice exams are also great resources.

Try your best to fit them in. While the projected score are said to be a little inflated, the style and length of questions are similar to the real deal.

First Aid For Step 1: A

Often physicians will describe treatments or screening tests as the gold standard in that field.

For medical school, and more specifically studying for Step 1, First Aid is the golden standard.  

First Aid has concise information from all the relevant topics you learn during your first two years in medical school.

It’s often used by second years preparing for their boards, but I also recommend it for pre-clinical years not preparing for Step 1.

Grab an old version of First Aid from an upperclassman and use it when you’re preparing for a quiz or test.

Often First Aid will do a better job than your lecturers in explaining a topic.

The key point is that if it’s in First Aid, learn it!

Now how did I use First Aid during my dedicated?

I did my typical first pass over the first two weeks.

What I found interesting is my lack of focus while reading First Aid after my first pass.

The first day I started my second pass of First Aid, I realized quickly it was going to be a waste of a time.

So I ended up doing one real focused pass-through of First Aid and several quick flip through reviews when reviewing a weaker topic. By the end, I had done 1 detailed review and 5+ full but quick passes.

I spent using active studying sources during the remaining time period.

You can find a link to First Aid here on Amazon. If you join some top medical organizations such as AMA, you may be able to get a free version. (All about saving that money! :D)

NBME Practice Exams: A

If money is an issue then plan to do at least 2-3 tests during your dedicated study.

They each cost $50 (60 if you want to see what you missed) so it can easily become expensive. I bought every available one just because the money was worth the practice.

Before beginning your dedicated study period it’s important to plan out when and how many practice exams you take.

In my Step 1 study schedule post, I’ll outline how and when I used these practice exams.

I found these exams to be a nice slap in the face each time. Full disclosure, my first one I took (courtesy of my school) without any studying was a 159.

Yikes!!

Now I’ll be honest that I found that score funny since I hadn’t done any UWORLD or First Aid. I also had 3 months before I began my dedicated studying.

Then when I calculated my percent grade I was shocked that a 60% was so low! It was a nice rude awakening that to do well on this exam, you’ll have to do really well.

Luckily that first practice exam was 3 months before my real test and I was able to boost my score by a significant amount. 60% turned into scores in the 80-90% range towards the middle of my dedicated.

A score of about 85% was approximately a 230 if you’re curious.

Each practice exam has a different curve so be prepared to see a range.

During test day, seeing so many actual test style questions was valuable. I was able to relax when I didn’t know something and remained level-headed throughout. Simple enough, take as many practice exam as you can.

Pathoma: A+

Pathoma saved me many times on my pre-clinical exams and it sure saved my butt on the actual exam.

While it comes with both text and video, I preferred the videos – I’m not someone who enjoys getting information from text so the high-yield videos were amazing.

During dedicated studying, it took me about 1.5 weeks to finish all the videos. I only allocated approximately an hour a day and used VLC Player to watch the videos at 2-2.5x.

If you’re not comfortable with the speed you can easily allocate more time to watch the videos. It was also a nice compliment to First Aid. Compared to older editions I found that First Aid has a lot of info from Pathoma with phrasing very similar to the videos.

Thus on many mornings, I would watch a specific set of videos, such as Cardio, and then read First Aid.

You can use the opposite approach as well, but it was much easier to wake up to videos then it was to read a First Aid chapter.

I also did a quick flip through during the last week.

If you Google Pathoma notes, many students have done the luxury of making high-yield notes of the Pathoma texts and videos.

After using the actual source, these were helpful to put all the info together after 5 weeks of studying. To buy a copy, click here for the Amazon link!

Broencephalon Anki Deck: A++

If I had to attribute my improvement to a few Step 1 resources, Broencephalon has to be one of them.

If you’re not familiar, a very very kind student made flashcards for all the info from First Aid and Pathoma.

The only problem… there are over 15,000!

Is it possible to do them during dedicated? Not really.

I tried but I gave up reviewing old cards to see newer cards every day.

Since I used Anki to study for my pre-clinical courses (you can learn more about that here).

I could get through 1000 cards after a long day of studying. Still, it wasn’t feasible to get through them all effectively during dedicated.

If you, however, want to master First Aid, start using Broencephalon as early as possible. 

Even if you’re approaching the end of your first or second year, you can still get through the deck effectively. Not only will you be prepared for Step 1, but you’ll do well in your classes.

USMLE-Rx: A

In my post outlining my Step 1 Experience (read more here), I mentioned how I couldn’t do more than one pass of UWORLD.

I was remembering the questions and it became ineffective. So I turned to Rx as my next source of questions.

It was time well spent without a doubt.

Rx is made from the same company who writes First Aid. So you can expect the questions to attack the high-yield points from the book.

Aside from testing you on your First Aid knowledge, Rx questions are also shorter and more to the point.

This is good to develop a firm base of Step 1 knowledge. In addition, you can get through the questions much faster and thus do more.

There were days I was easily doing 150-250. On the other hand, because they’re shorter and more straightforward, they’re not fully reflective of the real thing – UWORLD takes that prize all day long.

Also if you choose to use their self-assessment option be prepared to receive an inflated score. I used this a few days before my test and received a “projected score” of 269. Not even in my dreams is that possible. 😀

If you’re far removed from your Step 1 exam then Rx may be a great supplement to your studies!

SketchyMicro: A+

Using SketchyMicro, I could have easily answered over 90% of micro related questions on the real thing.

The remaining details can be found in First Aid and UWORLD questions.

This easily makes Sketchy something that should be in your repertoire of Step 1 resources.  I mentioned in an early post about the memory palace, how you can use the technique to improve your retention in medical school.

You can find that post here. Who better to turn to then SketchyMicro when you can’t make so many images by yourself? You can find a link to the videos here.

Also, check out their Pharm and upcoming Path products here.

Firecracker: A (with time) B (without)

I added this at the very end because time is a huge factor.

If you can stick with doing a specific amount of flashcards every day and the appropriate review, Firecracker will work wonders.

If on the other hand, you have the tendency to skip a few days or weeks here and there, Firecracker may not be for you.

Firecracker has good results from those who stick with it and have added some great updates since I started using them.

If you want to try out Firecracker you can try a trial. If you’re interested in buying you can find a great Firecracker discount hereJust remember that you’ll have to commit to Firecracker to see the results.


So there you have it.

One of my longer posts but surely a topic that is highly searched for. Hope now you can turn to the right Step 1 resources and not venture to too many things (I tried to do that for you!). I’ll have more Step 1 related posts in the future.

Check out my Step 1 experience post here. If there is something specific you’d like me to address in a future blog post, comment below or email me at [email protected]

 

 

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Until next time…

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